I've been homeschooling for over 4 years now and I have to admit, I've never been to a homeschool convention. I've wanted to go for the past few years but for whatever reason, usually my husband's work schedule, it just hadn't happened. Well, this year, I was determined to go to our first convention. Every year they have the Great Homeschool Convention in Ontario, California and I was determined I would be there come hell or high water!!
I bought my family pass back in Feb (and then 60 dollars later found out I could have gotten it free because we are military.. lol) along with tickets to view the two key speakers for that day. We knew we would only be able to attend one day this year, because, again, my husband's schedule, but that was okay by me.. One day was better than no days, right??
Well, the weekend before we were to go, we got an email stating that due to unforeseeable circumstances, one of the speakers we were going to see was being moved from Saturday to Friday. I got to admit, I was pretty disappointed that we were not going to get to see Michaal Franzese, the mob boss from the Colombo crime family. But, I was still getting to go to the convention, so I was okay with that.
Everyone went to bed early the night before, knowing we were going to have to get up by 8am and start driving. It's roughly 90 miles from here to the convention center, so we figured we would leave by 830 and hopefully be there around 10ish.
You notice things NEVER work out the way one plans?? We did indeed get up before 8.. And we indeed got loaded up in the car and headed out before 830. But on the way into the gas station to fuel up, a man pulled up beside us to let us know that our break lights were not working on the Forrester.
I'm going to admit, I lost it.. I'm awake way too early in the am and I have yet to have any coffee, as I was planning on grabbing a very large cup from the gas station.. lol I usually don't get up until 830 to begin with and I'm not functional until around 10 when I've had two cups of coffee. For the last few years, I've wanted to go to convention but never could and there was NO way we were driving 90 miles without break lights. And while we have the brand new Challenger with break lights that work sitting in the drive way, I know my husband wasn't about to drive it to the Los Angeles area (he has yet to drive it off base since we brought it home.. lol).. So, yes, I cried..
And my husband, who I have to get props for being such the wonderful man that he is, knew that he had to do something to make this right. So, sitting outside the NAPA auto parts on base at 9am, he purchased two replacement bulbs in the hope that maybe, by some miracle, both bulbs decided to blow out at the same time, even thought the likelihood of that being the case was pretty slim. The temperatures were already rising but there he was, replacing those bulbs while the kids and I sat in a AC cooled car.
And God delivered that miracle. Sure enough, both bulbs somehow went out at the exact same time and all that was needed was the replacement bulbs. (I was certain one of the many squirrels running around chewed the line and my husband was going to spend the next few days in the heat tracking down where the electrical line needed to be fixed.).
Behind schedule but not having to cancel, we were finally off to Ontario.
These cool rock formats are called the Mormon Rocks and are located in the Cajon Pass. In 1851, a group of Mormon settlers traveled through the Cajon Pass in covered wagons on their way from Salt Lake City to southern California. These rock formation in the pass were named for them and is where the Mormon trail was located. I thought they were really neat.
We arrived at the convention center a little after 11am. We knew we weren't going to get to see the first speaker that we wanted to see, but we had arrived in time to make the 1pm talk with Dave Stotts from Drive Thru History, so we were happy with that. We opted to spend that time walking around the Vendor Hall, getting an an idea of what we might want to purchase (I never buy immediately, just in case I find a better price or something else I like more at another table). Then we decided to grab lunch (and coffee!!!)
Note to others, food at conventions is expensive. We spent 50 bucks on three very small turkey sandwiches, two bananas, two coffees, two drinks and a salad. But, you're a captive audience so what can you do, right? We grab a table behind the small cafe and get settled.
My little monkey's with their bananas
You can kinda see the wall behind Mr Stotts. Garrett loves patterns like that, so it was indeed a primary focus for him. I might try using CD's and a ruler and see if maybe he and I can't somewhat replicate that design as a project for him, since he thought it was so cool.
After our encounter with Mr Stotts and a healthy (albeit pricey) lunch, it was time to head over to actually see Mr Stotts talk. I kinda felt terrible for him as I expected MANY more people to be at this talk. I think the planners of the convention expected a larger audience as well, as they put him in the combined AB Ballroom, which seemed as if it could easily hold well over 600 people. There were maybe 30 in attendance :( But that was okay with us, as it meant that we had a good seat, it allowed him to come down off the stage and allow for a more personable experience between him and those who had come to hear him speak.
We got to watch clips from each of the three available video series (Ancient History, American Revolution and The Gospels) as well as have a preview of the production currently in the works, which will focus on the book of Acts. We also got to learn about their upcoming project in conjunction with The Museum of the Bible which is located in Washington DC. Together along with his production manager (which I feel really bad because I didn't catch his name) told us about a new online project that they are currently working on, that will be a subscription that allows access to curriculum, a library of videos that are not included in the series and a whole bunch of other tools that would be valuable to homeschool families. Afterwards, he took questions from the audience.
After Drive Thru History's presentation, we opted to return to the Vendor Hall to finish looking around at all the tables and make some purchases. It was so neat to see so many of the vendors that we have written reviews for, like Apologia, Veritas, Memoria Press, and Here to Help Learning, just to name a few. I hated that we didn't have as much time at the convention as we would have liked, because one could easily spend a day alone wandering from table to table and talking to the different vendors.
The kids got to meet up with Dave Stotts a second time as we were making our way through the vendor hall. He took the time to sign a few autographed pictures for the kids and pose for a photograph. I really hate that Alyssa wasn't able to attend with us, as she's still in Houston right now, as she absolutely LOVES Dave Stotts (and thinks he's a cutie).. But Alyssa, if your reading this, Dave sent you something special and it will be waiting when you return home next month.
There were so many wonderful vendors, I can't say enough about them and I do wish I had so much more time to talk to many more of them, especially the colleges. (And thank you to my wonderful husband who had enough brains to snap some pictures - I was in curriculum overload and completely dropped the ball.. lol).
We had time for one more talk for the day, and we elected to listen to Apologia's presentation entitled From Microscope to the Telescope: : Observing God's Perfect Design and Our Special Position in Creation. This turned out to be an extremely interesting lecture presented by Sherri Seligson about how asinine it is to assume life same from a "primordial soup" when we observe patterns in creation, such as how the structure of an Atom and the structure of a galaxy is very similar in appearance. My husband was pretty impressed with this lecture, not expecting to get to sit in on a real science lecture (it's a homeschool convention - he was expecting talks about homeschool lol). We both found it extremely interesting.
Sadly, that was the last of the lectures. I would have liked to have gone to more, as there were so many wonderful presentations through the three days of the convention that I would have loved to have attended. :(
But that didn't mean our day was over. We had tickets for the final event and so we got in line to see Nick Vejucic. While both myself and Alyssa knew who he was, the kids and Charles had never heard of him prior to my telling them that I was going to get tickets for us to see him speak. I did, however, show the kids photographs of him so that there wouldn't be a shock when they finally saw him for the first time.
If you are unaware, Nick Vejucic was born with what is called Tetra-amelia syndrome, which resulted in him being born with no arms or no limbs. He does, however, have a small flipper shaped foot (with two toes, as he points out) that he has learned to use to his advantage, allowing himself to be mobile and to do things like operate a mechanical wheelchair and type on a smartphone. He's also the founder of "Life Without Limbs", a non profit organization and ministry that teaches others to learn to live without limits.
To a full ballroom, Nick told us about the difficulties he faced in school from bullies, to some of the hardships he had to overcome (like breaking his foot while playing soccer and not being able to use it for 6 months). He told us about how he at one point tried to commit suicide and had give up on life but then discovered that the Lord had another purpose for him. He talks of his failures and his successes. And the entire time, all eyes were on him as he "strutted" back and forth across the table, even hopping like a jackrabbit (his description, not mine lol). And all the while, he really put things in perspective for you.
There's something about Nick that just draws you to him, especially for my children. Whether it's his personality and his sense of humor, or maybe seeing a grown man who's smaller than they are makes him appear less threatening, my kids absolutely loved him. Ashleigh wanted to give him a hug. The entire drive home, they would talk about him.
There's also another quality about Nick that you won't realize til after the fact. When he first comes out, you're going to notice he has no arms and no legs. Basically, he's a torso and a head with a small flipper. But after about 5 minutes of him talking, you start to see well beyond that fact and you begin forget that there's a torso jumping across the table, looking a lot like Larry Cucumber, at least until he says something funny to remind you of the fact. As you spend that hour with him, you really see the man that God has made him, a shining example of courage and love of life and it makes you realize just how shallow you have been when you turned your eyes from someone "different" that you saw on the side of the road. At least, that's how I felt. Finally, it makes you realize if someone with no arms and no legs can accomplish all he has, writing books, going golfing and surfing, traveling the world and sharing his faith and his story, how much can we accomplish if we also set our minds to it, knowing we are advantaged with 2 arms and 2 legs?
|What will these two be able to accomplish?|
We left the convention feeling amazed and uplifted.
And my husband and said that next year, he's taking time from work so that we can attend all three days, as he enjoyed it that much and wished he could have also attended all three days.
OOH, and I can't forget the part everyone wants to know about.. Our Vendor Hall Haul, right? Well, I'm happy to report, that my husband gave me a fair amount of money in which to spend and I didn't come close to spending it all, although I could have.. I was just so grateful to have been able to make the convention in the first place.. But, yeah, I came home with a fair amount of stuff ;)
But you'll have to read about it in part two of this post :)